Marseille-based French trip-hop band Chinese Man blend hip-hop, funk, dub, reggae and jazz with a big emphasis on beats and samples. The band – originally from Aix-en-Provence – also run their own independent record label, the eponymous Chinese Man Records (CMR), featuring various contemporary French artists. Looking to mark the 15th anniversary of the label, RFILabo (a division of French news and current affairs public radio station, RFI) suggested a 360° video version of ‘Hold Tight’ one of the standout tracks from the group’s latest album, The Groove Sessions Vol.5.

Chinese Man‘All RFILabo’s productions are in 3D, either in native binaural, synthetic binaural sound from the channel mode or Ambisonic,’ explains Xavier Gibert, Head of RFI Labo’s Innovation Unit, ‘All 360 videos that we produce are in dynamic binaural sound – the sound space is coherent with the rotation of the spectator’s head.’

RFILabo does a lot of work in the format. The regular music programme SessionLab allows listeners to discover the creation and life of musicians through a podcast, a video portrait, and a 3D soundtrack, and is broadcast on the social networks of RFI, RFI Musique and France24.

The facility also records and mixes the electronic music concert series Séquence, broadcast on CultureBox (France Télévision) and RFI, in co-production with Milgram. It also produces documentary podcasts in binaural sound.

‘RFILabo’s work consists of producing binaural sound with minimal changes to conventional sound recording techniques,’ Gibert explains. ‘The 3D sound should not change the creative process of the artists – a constraint we set ourselves at the beginning of RFILabo in 2012.’

All music recorded at RFI has used SSL hardware since 2008 when the facility had its first console installed. System T has enabled it to keep the sound quality that it values so much while adding the flexibility and production capacity of a genuinely next generation audio production system.

‘The recording process is the same as for a normal recording: microphones for the singers, lines for the machines, and returns for the musicians, and two System T S500 control surfaces and selection of Network I/O for recording and returns,’ says Gilbert. ‘We keep in mind the same elements as for a stereophonic recording: rigor of the sound recording and comfort for the musicians. All the spatialisation work in the Ambisonic domain is done in postproduction.’

The RFILabo workflow sees the multitrack sound recording undertaken with the System T. Each track is processed as if for a stereo production. Recording is done in Pro-Tools. The spatialization in the ambisonic domain is done downstream in connection with the 360 video, with the SSL Native plug-in suite used to keep the sound colour of the take consistent throughout the process.

‘Our entire music recording studio is built around two System T configurations for sound recording and returns,’ Gibert says. ‘The Dante architecture integrates SSL interfaces, Klang headphones and DAD interfaces for all analogue peripherals. The advantages of the System T for this kind of production is the flexibility of the Network I/O stageboxes to easily manage the transition between mic and line levels, and to be able to make different ‘return mixes’ for the wedges of the DJs and the ear-monitors of the MCs.

‘We particularly liked the fact that this console, which was basically a broadcast type console, was able to evolve towards sound recording and music mixing. The other strong point is the Rehearse mode, which allows us to switch to Mix mode very quickly after a recording, while keeping the same configuration.

‘The integration of most of the functions in Touch mode is really well thought out and is largely completed with the use of knobs. We also appreciate the flexibility of the monitoring section and, of course, the fact that the quality of the dynamic and frequency processing remains faithful to SSL. And we have a project for a first live 360 in dynamic binaural sound – it will be a first.’

Faithful to the audio values of the past and looking to the spatial audio future, RFILabo has no intention of standing still. Indeed, Gibert confesses that he’s looking forward to future System T updates and enhancements to the binaural encoder.

More: www.solidstatelogic.com

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